Got My Mojo Working
Originally written by Preston “Red” Foster, Muddy Waters’ recording would go on to become the definitive version of the song. Released on the Chicago based Chess label in 1957 as both a ten-inch 78 rpm record and a seven-inch 45 rpm single, with “Rock Me” on the flip side of both, “Got My Mojo Working” would go on to become a staple of Muddy’s live set for his entire career including an rockin’ run through that brought the house down at the Newport Folk Festival in 1960 and was featured on the legendary album Newport 1960.
Muddy Waters recorded the song on Saturday, December 1, 1956 in Chicago, IL. The band featured Jimmy Rogers on guitar, Muddy’s longtime sideman Otis Spann on Piano, Willie Dixon on bass, Francis Clay on drums and legendary Little Walter on harmonica. Muddy would revisit the song on numerous albums including, Paris, 1972 (1997) and Breakin’ It UP, Breakin’ It DOWN with Johnny Winter and James Cotton (2007) and a two-part live workout recorded on April 24, 1969 at the Super Cosmic Joy-Scout Jamboree on the classic half studio-half live album Fathers And Sons (1969).
In the song’s lyrics Muddy proclaims:
I'm going down to Louisiana to get me a mojo hand
I'm gonna have all you women right here at my command
Got my mojo working (4x)
Got my mojo working, but it just won’t work on you
The “mojo”, usually a magic talisman or amulet, referred to in the song is a key element of “hoodoo” practiced by Africans-Americans in the early United States. Rather than some abstract concept, the “mojo hand” conjures up images of a “trick bag” or “mojo bag” that might contain human or animal bones and some rare botanical roots, or could refer to something as benign as a lucky rabbits foot. In this particular instance, Muddy is looking for a very specific kind of “mojo”, namely one that will gain the affections of a disinterested female.
In 1999 The National Academy of Recording Art and Sciences recognized the song with a Grammy Hall of Fame Award and included it on the prestigious list of “Songs Of The Century” with the aim to “promote a better understanding of America’s musical and cultural heritage” in American schools.